In 1999, Sokoto, like all other states in Nigeria, was set for yet another political dispensation, sixteen years after the demise of democratic governance in 1983. The Third Republic was about to begin and blocks of political reckoning were poised to compete for power.
The bureaucrats-cum old breed politicians (refered to as “”yan boko”) were pit against their former, mainly non-elitist associates, who had evolved into a political block. And by the close of voting, the outcome of the 1999 elections proved to be a turning point in the political character and power structure of Sokoto State.
Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, who emerged as governor of the state, was in fact, a cross between the two contending groups. Although he had Western schooling, he spent most of his life outside the bureaucracy but in close association with the top public service elite.
Bafarawa’s administration, with the support of elements within the civil service, was the platform for the consolidation and transformation of the urban and rural non-western schooled business community into the first new political empire, since the First Republic.
It is arguable though, that Bafarawa also unwittingly nurtured the next political hegimony that emerged to rival and eventually defeat his hold on power barely eight years later. An internal dispute spearheaded on either side by Bafarawa and his Deputy, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko caused a split of the empire, which saw the latter to electoral victory, with the election of Wamakko as governor in 2007.
A second dominant political block was therefore created in Sokoto State, which was regarded as the return of the “yan boko” to power because unlike Bafarawa, Wamakko was a civil servant. This new fiefdom had however, all the trappings of the one it replaced, as all the various elements of the previous establishment secured representation in the new political and power structure.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had been a part of the two blocks. By perspective, he is eminently Western-schooled but he has all through his career been in the private sector and politically, Tambuwal had at different times secured tickets to run for office on the platforms political parties led by both Bafarawa and Wamakko.
Tambuwals administration as Governor, which began in 2015 can thus be described as the confluence of different political blocks in Sokoto State. In both government and politics, it is an emsemble of elements from the Bafarawa and Wamakko camps and representatives from the much older generation.
The defeat of Wamakko’s APC by Tambuwal’s PDP in the 2019 governorship election was a repeat of 2007, in the sense that it was when power was again seized from an entrenched political block. The difference was that Tambuwal accomplished the feat without being the overload of a political empire.
Ensuing from that, Tambuwal’s current government in Sokoto can be regarded as the most politically inclusive in history, a partnership of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. Involvement is based on shared commitment to good governance, rather than unquestionable loyalty or subserviance, marking the state’s departure from the era of hegemonic politics and the totalitarian leadership of godfathers.
Opposing singular leaders exerts enormous costs on the political fortunes of individuals who endeavor to do so and shakes the stability of the system. Godfathers are defeated only through a political war of attrition, as experienced in Sokoto State in the general elections of 2019, which was won and lost by a mere 342 votes.
Now, a few months to the end of his two-term tenure, Tambuwal is leaving power not as a demi-god. He has not nurtured a political empire to bequeth but a style of governance that facilitates the participation of all citizens, especially those with valuable contributions to make to the success of the system.
As Governor Tambuwal himself always advocates, the era of strong leaders is gone because however good they are, their benefit only lasts with their tenure. Good leadership can only be guaranteed and sustained by strong systems that uphold inclusiveness, shared commitment and responsibility towards effecient service delivery to the people.
Through Tambuwal’s patient and perservering pursuit, the concept is catching on in Sokoto, particularly among the state’s political elite. A large section of the old breed are coming to terms with the reality of the end of primitive, master-servant politics.
There is still some resistance to the new philosophy, posed by unrepentant believers in and profiteers from absolute control. But 2023 is potentially the exit point for the last vistages of political godfathers, who are standing against the emergent tide of political freedom and partisan choice.
Their two choices are to follow the tide or be swept away by its strong tide into political obscurity and irrelevance, either of which is to the benefit of the system and the society.